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What are the penalties for “death-by-vehicle” in N.C.?

On Behalf of | Sep 3, 2021 | blog, criminal defense

Regardless of in which state you live, causing a motor vehicle accident that results in the death of another person is a serious matter. In North Carolina, however, it is more than a “serious matter.” It may constitute a criminal offense.

According to DrivingLaws, if you commit a traffic violation and/or violate the state’s drunk driving laws and, in the process, unintentionally cause the death of another person, the state may charge you with “death-by-vehicle.” Whether you face felony or misdemeanor charges depends largely on what you were doing directly before the collision.

Felony death-by-vehicle

You face felony death-by-vehicle charges if, while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you cause an accident that results in the death of one or more other persons. You may face these charges if, following the accident, you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, or if you have any amount of a Schedule 1 drug in your system. Felony death-by-vehicle is a class D felony that carries a punishment of between 38 and 160 months in prison and fines in an amount the judge deems appropriate.

The state may elevate a felony death-by-vehicle charge to an aggravated offense if you have a prior DUI/DWI conviction on your record. If convicted, you face between 64 to 160 months in prison.

Misdemeanor death-by-vehicle

If you commit a traffic violation other than a DUI and cause a collision that results in the death of another person, you may face misdemeanor death-by-vehicle charges. Examples of traffic violations include speeding, running a stop sign or texting while driving. Misdemeanor death-by-vehicle is a class A1 misdemeanor. A conviction can result in up to 150 days in jail and fines in an amount the judge deems appropriate.

Causation is necessary

For either a felony or misdemeanor death-by-vehicle charge to stick, the state must prove causation. What this means is that it must have proof that there was a direct link between your traffic violation or impairment and the victim’s death. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you explore your defense options, possibly disprove causation and maybe obtain a reduced charge, dismissal or not-guilty verdict.